U.S. Convoy Attacked by ‘Pro-Regime’ Mob in Syria

US soldiers look on as they patrol the village of al Jawadiyah in the northeastern Hasakeh province, near the border with Turkey, on January 22, 2020. (Photo by Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP) (Photo by DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. convoy was stopped at a “pro-Syrian regime forces” checkpoint near Qamishli in northeastern Syria on Wednesday and attacked by a mob. According to Syrian state media, one civilian was killed and another injured when the convoy defended itself.

“After Coalition troops issued a series of warnings and de-escalation attempts, the patrol came under small arms fire from unknown individuals. In self-defense, Coalition troops returned fire. The situation was de-escalated and is under investigation. The Coalition patrol returned to base,” said a U.S. military statement on Wednesday.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency claimed the attack was carried out by hundreds of angry locals who blocked the convoy’s passage, threw stones, and tore the American flag off one of the vehicles. According to this report, the convoy called in reinforcements when the confrontation escalated and eventually used smoke bombs and live ammunition to disperse the mob. 

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said some of the “demonstrators” were actually armed members of a militia allied with the Syrian regime. According to the SOHT, the militia fighters fired their weapons during the confrontation. One Syrian activist reported on Wednesday that the “militants” who attacked the U.S. patrol have been detained by Syrian government intelligence agents.

The UK Guardian reported that a Russian military convoy appeared on the scene “in an apparent attempt to mediate the rare confrontation involving US and Syrian fighters.” The Russian Defense Ministry stated that Russian troops helped to “prevent further escalation of the conflict.”

Qamishli is largely controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led military force allied with the U.S. against the Islamic State. Syrian and Russian forces are present in the area as well, and the Syrians are allied with several local militia groups. A reporter working in the region told Voice of America News (VOA) on Wednesday that the convoy was attacked by members of a pro-regime militia called the National Defense Forces.

An SDF official told VOA that Kurdish forces normally accompany U.S. patrols, but on this occasion “no SDF fighters were involved.”

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